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Nehemiah, Daniel, and Lot

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matt. 5:4) 

This verse brings to my mind two individuals from the Old Testament. Both had similar reasons to mourn, but Jehovah answered each one differently. I am thinking of Nehemiah and Daniel. We get the relevant parts of their stories in Nehemiah 1:4–11; 2:2–6 and Daniel 9:3–22, respectively. 

The first and most important thing to notice is that both of these men had deep-felt affection for the people of God and for the dishonor done to God through the shame brought upon the people. In spite of the fact that the distress was deserved by the unbelief and rebellion of these people, they still felt the dishonor to God brought by the distress and prayed on behalf of these people to God for mercy. The importance of their attitude is essential to see. In a similar way, we cannot be of help to others if we do not have compassion on their condition regardless of how much they might have brought it upon themselves. 

But, what is interesting in the comparison between Nehemiah and Daniel is the different ways the Lord answered them. In the case of Nehemiah, the Lord moved the king to enlist him to work directly to mitigate the problem that brought him sorrow. While in the case of Daniel, he sent wisdom, conveyed by the angel, to comfort him. Daniel was thus enlightened as to the certainty of final blessing for his people. In these two ways both men can be a comfort and encouragement to any who mourn over the present condition of the Christian testimony. 

I have yet another in mind, who is much different, yet also gives encouragement for the day of ruin. This man is the unlikely example of Lot. When we compare the Old Testament history of Lot given in Genesis with the view given in 2 Peter 2:7–9, we must be struck by the difference.  

In Genesis, Lot’s behavior is clearly in contrast to Abraham. Abraham is the man of faith while Lot shows the lack of faith that leads him to desire the “well-watered Jordan Valley”, (Gen. 13:10) that which appeals to his desire to improve himself and his position in the world. We can trace his downward steps to being a resident in Sodom and the disastrous effect that this has on his family. We have similar self-seeking behavior in Gehazi, the servant of Elisha (2 Ki. 5:19-26). After extorting riches from Naaman, Elisha said to him “Is it a time to receive money and to receive clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female servants?” (2 Ki. 5:25, NASB) Then, the leprosy of Naaman became attached to Gehazi. This is a warning to any believer who would put first the acquisition of the benefits of this world’s acclaim. 

In Peter, however, we get a different picture of Lot. His faithlessness is not even mentioned. Instead, the vexing of his righteous soul by the evil around him is dwelt on. The important lesson that Peter brings out is the preservation of the saint in a world away from God. This is also a much needed encouragement today. We may be surrounded by evil of which we had no part and is not in any way a result of our disobedience or lack of faith. In this circumstance, the experience of Lot as given by Peter is a real encouragement. The concluding lesson, “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials” (v. 9) can comfort us by preservation or outright deliverance. We look for the Lord from Heaven to take us to be with Himself. The remainder of the verse is solemn indeed. God is also able “to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.” 

Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” 
Behold, ow is “the day of salvation”–
2 Corinthians 6:2b

Seek the Lord while He may be found; 
Call upon Him while He is near.
Isaiah 55:6

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